Nova Scotia’s Jack Werry Keeps Improving His Restroom Business as He Contemplates Retirement

The owner of Jack’s Expert Flush & Toilet Rentals believes smaller PROs can be profitable if they concentrate on hard work and quality service

Nova Scotia’s Jack Werry Keeps Improving His Restroom Business as He Contemplates Retirement

ack Werry checks out one of his restrooms from Satellite | PolyPortables.

Jack Werry, owner of Jack’s Expert Flush & Toilet Rentals in Halifax, Nova Scotia, has been a portable restroom operator since 2004. With about 260 restrooms, Werry believes he’s found the sweet spot where he can remain personally involved in all aspects of providing quality service while making a good profit.

He serves primarily construction industry clients in the Halifax area, rounded out by weddings and occasional events. He employs two full-time staff members and one part-time worker. The company offers restrooms from PolyJohn Canada, Five Peaks and Satellite | PolyPortables. A single VIP wedding trailer was self-built.

Werry operates three vacuum trucks, all built out by Vacutrux with Wallenstein pumps and steel tanks. The first is a 2005 Chevrolet Silverado with a 240-gallon waste and 180-gallons freshwater tank. The second is a 2010 Ram 5500 with a 300-gallon waste and 150-gallon freshwater tank. The third is a 2011 Ram 2500 with a 120-gallon waste and 120-gallon freshwater tank.

A new Ram Sport delivery truck pulls units on three self-built trailers — a 10-unit model, six-unit model and three-unit model. “I like the way the Rams sit a little taller than the others,” he says. “Working on construction sites, I like that higher ride because I don’t want to tear the bottom out of that truck.”

The company is a member of the Waste Water Nova Scotia Society, a professional organization primarily serving the province’s onsite industry. Although he’s not a member, Werry also attends Portable Sanitation Association International events. He’s a regular attendee at the WWETT Show. “I talk to other operators, check out what’s new and I buy stuff,” he says. “If it’s about my business, I go.”

1. Pivoting to take advantage of new opportunities

Werry spent most of the 1980s working as a flooring installer contractor in high-rise buildings in Calgary, Alberta. Returning to Nova Scotia, he filled a market niche by launching Expert Rubbish Removal in 1992, a garbage removal service that grew to 44 containers.

“We served construction and residential customers and specialized in cleaning out the properties of hoarders, like the ones you see in the TV shows,” Werry says. “I only had three competitors in the market when the business started and 73 when I got out.”

Realizing that the bulk trash business had only a short shelf life left, he pivoted to offering construction customers both containers and portable restrooms as part of a package deal. 

His first vacuum truck came in handy during the business crossover period, most prominently in executing a contract on a hoarder’s home in Dartmouth. “The house was waist-high in trash and rats were running everywhere,” he recalls. “The toilets had been plugged long ago and human waste had been stored in 5-gallon buckets. I was the only company that would bid on it because I was the only one with a pumper.”

As the portable restroom business became busier and busier, he moved entirely away from trash into portable restroom rentals and service. “I’ve never looked back,” he says.

As a PRO, he’s always looking for new opportunities as well. That includes branching out into wedding service. He takes on about 50 weddings per year.

2. Remaining small to maintain quality service

Werry is a hands-on owner. He and one other employee provide most of the outside labor for the business. A part-time employee maintains the portable restrooms and the truck pumps. His girlfriend, Shelly Dollemont, handles bookkeeping and office duties.

“I want to make a good living, but I have no interest in managing a lot of employees,” he says. “I want to stress cleanliness, and personal service is the best way to achieve that. I also believe that if I became a lot larger, additional costs would result in a smaller rate of return.”

Werry says many clients tell him they prefer working with a small company that can offer personal service. At 65, he remains in good physical shape, in part because he never shies away from the physical labor required to keep the business running.

“I work seven days a week,” he says. “Some people just say that to let you know that they’re really busy. I mean that I literally work seven days a week. That’s as many hours as I can handle.”

3. Knowing his company’s strengths

While many PROs like to bring work — such as vehicle repair or marketing — in-house, Werry sticks to what the business is good at.

“We repair all of our portable restrooms and the truck pumps, but don’t even show me a mechanic’s wrench when it comes to truck maintenance because I won’t touch it,” he says. “We’re good at a lot of things and so are mechanics who specialize in fixing broken trucks. I don’t mind paying a garage a little more, as long as they give me service. That means fixing my truck and getting it back to me the same day, because our profit is measured in trucks on the road.”

He feels he same way about marketing, trusting his ad spend to phone books and paying them to operate his website. “Business that doesn’t come in from word-of-mouth comes in from Yellow Pages advertising and the website,” he says. “It’s worth every cent I pay them.”

4. Adjusting to a thriving local economy

Once thought of as a rural province, Nova Scotia has grown to almost a million residents, with much of that growth centered in Halifax (population 410,000). “For many years, Halifax wasn’t considered a city of opportunity,” he says. “But it’s definitely a place of opportunity today because the economy is so strong. There are so many people with money moving here who are making this economy go.”

The construction industry, one of Werry’s biggest markets, has also grown along with the economy. “My business has undergone a steady improvement under the current economic expansion,” he says. “I’m busier in winter of this year than I was in the summer.”

Working in Nova Scotia means contending with cold winters, but business continues year-round. “We winterize our portable restrooms using a salt brine,” Werry says. “They never freeze. We have at least two pumper trucks running all winter.”

5. Building the company’s value ahead of retirement

Werry would be happy to pass the business on to his son, who lives in Alberta, but family obligations keep him tied to that province. Instead, Werry plans to sell the company in the next two years. Although he’s satisfied with the success of the business, he’s entered one final sprint to maximize its value before putting it on the market.

“I continue to order new portable restroom units,” he says. “I’ve ordered new units four times this year alone. And I’ll also be bringing in a new pumper truck from Vacutrux in 2020, another Ram 5500. I believe a new owner with ambition could make a lot of money with the business I’ve built.”

When the new truck arrives, Werry says he plans to hire an additional employee to handle the increased activity.

His advice to people interested in becoming a PRO: “We’ll always have a need for portable restrooms, and there’ll always be business opportunities here. If you’re a young person with energy, there’s money to be made.”


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